New Chair appointed to The Space

July 16, 2019

The Space today (18 July, 2019) announces that Sarah Ellis, Director of Digital Development at the RSC, has been appointed as its new Chair. Sarah joins as Fiona Allan, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Birmingham Hippodrome and President, UK Theatre, steps down as Chair after a four-year tenure. Sarah will work closely with Fiona Morris, Chief Executive and Creative Director of The Space, to build on the existing work of the organisation and develop new opportunities, driving digital innovation in the arts, cultural and heritage sectors.

Sarah is an award-winning producer and, as Director of Digital Development for the RSC, has spearheaded a number of digital innovations in theatre. She is currently leading the Audience of the Future programme, a £16m investment as part of the government Industrial Strategy Challenge which involves 15 specialist organisations and pioneers in immersive technology, including The Space, with the aim of shaping how audiences will experience live performance in the future.

The Space is also announcing the results of an independent evaluation of its work, which shows that it has significantly exceeded targets for its founding programme from 2014-2018, supporting cultural organisations to develop their audiences online and build digital skills and capacity for the future.

Since its launch in June 2014, The Space’s founding programme has resulted in:

  • 141 commissioned projects being published, which have cumulatively generated 27.2 million sessions up to March 2019, including online and broadcast audiences
  • Commissioned work from a wide range of cultural organisations and artists for online, broadcast and cinema distribution, including Akram Khan’s Giselle for English National Ballet and Phyllida Lloyd’s all-female Shakespeare Trilogy for the Donmar WarehouseThe Believers Are But Brothers adapted for BBC Four and online audiences;  Turner prize winning artists collective Assemble’s Granby Winter Gardens in Liverpool brought to life online in 360°; The Empathy Museum’s A Mile in My Shoes podcasts (shortlisted for Best New Podcast at the British Podcast Awards) and Es Devlin’s Please Feed the Lions AI poetry installation in Trafalgar Square in association with Google Arts & Culture and London Design Festival.
  • 68% of organisations reported increased demand for their work as a direct result of their digital commission
  • All organisations reported gaining new digital skills, from online audience development to digital production and negotiating rights for digital distribution
  • All interviewed organisations had made identifiable organisational changes as a result of their digital commission, including strategic or cultural shifts or modifications to staff roles

Sarah Ellis said, “I am hugely excited to take on the role of Chair for The Space enabling me to build on the exceptional work that Fiona Allen has Chaired and Fiona Morris and her team have done over the last four years.

Digital innovation in arts and culture is at a pivotal moment with an increasing number of new ways in which audiences can experience live performance using new and emerging technologies.  Culture develops as technology advances, and there are more and more opportunities that can be developed and experimented with to bring this technology to global audiences.  As we test these opportunities, bringing together new partnerships and sectors that have not worked together before, the potential is huge and there to see.  We just need to grasp it and grow it’s potential.  I look forward to exploring what is possible with The Space team.”

Fiona Morris, Chief Executive and Creative Director of The Space said, “We’re delighted to welcome Sarah as our incoming Chair. Her passion, knowledge, and experience in championing creative digital innovation in the live art sector is second to none and will be invaluable to us in identifying opportunities for cultural organisations to experiment with digital technology. I also wish to thank Fiona Allan on behalf of the whole team at The Space for her time as Chair. It’s thanks to her support and determination that the organisation has been able to achieve all it has over the last four years.”

Fiona Allan said, “I’m very proud of all The Space has achieved since I joined as Chair in 2015, and congratulate Fiona Morris, John White and The Space team for their incredible work over the past few years. During this time, The Space has supported many arts and cultural organisations to innovate, embracing digital technologies and platforms to connect with new audiences, breaking down barriers and opening up access, something that I am personally very passionate about. I will continue to support the organisation as I hand the baton over to Sarah, for what I am sure will prove to be an exciting period of continuing innovation for the sector.”

About Sarah Ellis

Sarah Ellis is an award-winning producer currently working as Director of Digital Development for the Royal Shakespeare Company to explore new artistic initiatives and partnerships. The latest partnership she is leading for the RSC is the Audience of the Future Live Performance Demonstrator funded by Innovate UK which is a consortium consisting of arts organisations, research partners and technology companies to explore the future of performances and real-time immersive experiences.

In 2017, she became a fellow of the University of Worcester for her work in the arts and technology. In 2016 she was awarded The Hospital Club and Creative Industries award for cross industry collaboration for her work on the RSC’s The Tempest in collaboration with Intel and in association with The Imaginarium Studios.

In 2013 she was listed in the top 100 most influential people working in Gaming and Technology by The Hospital Club and Guardian Culture Professionals. In partnership with Google’s Creative Lab, she produced Midsummer Night’s Dreaming which won two Lovie Awards for Innovation and Experimentation.

In 2012 she produced myShakespeare, an online artistic commissioning platform for the World Shakespeare Festival. In 2011, she was the producer of the RSC’s new work Adelaide Road, which mixed live performance with an app and website map.

As a theatre and spoken word producer, she has worked with the Old Vic Tunnels, Battersea Arts Centre, Birmingham REP, Contact, Freeword, Improbable, Southbank Centre, Soho Theatre, and Shunt. She has been Head of Creative Programmes at the Albany Theatre and Programme Manager for Apples & Snakes, England’s leading performance poetry organisation.

Sarah is a regular speaker and commentator on digital arts practice, as well as an Industry Champion for the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre, which helps inform academic research on the creative industries to lead to better policies for the sector. As well as Chair of The Space, she is also on the Board of touring company, Headlong Theatre, as well as a Trustee and Co-Chair of The Poetry Society.